Annals of Biomedical Engineering

, Volume 40, Issue 8, pp 1666–1678 | Cite as

Automated Estimation of Collagen Fibre Dispersion in the Dermis and its Contribution to the Anisotropic Behaviour of Skin

  • Aisling Ní AnnaidhEmail author
  • Karine Bruyère
  • Michel Destrade
  • Michael D. Gilchrist
  • Corrado Maurini
  • Melanie Otténio
  • Giuseppe Saccomandi


Collagen fibres play an important role in the mechanical behaviour of many soft tissues. Modelling of such tissues now often incorporates a collagen fibre distribution. However, the availability of accurate structural data has so far lagged behind the progress of anisotropic constitutive modelling. Here, an automated process is developed to identify the orientation of collagen fibres using inexpensive and relatively simple techniques. The method uses established histological techniques and an algorithm implemented in the MATLAB image processing toolbox. It takes an average of 15 s to evaluate one image, compared to several hours if assessed visually. The technique was applied to histological sections of human skin with different Langer line orientations and a definite correlation between the orientation of Langer lines and the preferred orientation of collagen fibres in the dermis \((p<0.001, R^{2}= 0.95)\) was observed. The structural parameters of the Gasser–Ogden–Holzapfel (GOH) model were all successfully evaluated. The mean dispersion factor for the dermis was \(\kappa = 0.1404 \pm 0.0028.\) The constitutive parameters μ, k 1 and k 2 were evaluated through physically-based, least squares curve-fitting of experimental test data. The values found for μ, k 1 and k 2 were 0.2014 MPa, 243.6 and 0.1327, respectively. Finally, the above model was implemented in ABAQUS/Standard and a finite element (FE) computation was performed of uniaxial extension tests on human skin. It is expected that the results of this study will assist those wishing to model skin, and that the algorithm described will be of benefit to those who wish to evaluate the collagen dispersion of other soft tissues.


Fibre orientation Anisotropic Skin Collagen Fibres 



The authors acknowledge gratefully the advice and assistance of Mr. Ciaran Driver, Dr. Michael Curtis and Prof. Marie Cassidy, of the Office of the State Pathologist (Ireland), in the area of histology. This research was supported by a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework Programme, awarded to MD; by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology; by the Office of the State Pathologist (Irish Department of Justice and Equality); and by the Ile-de-France region. G.S. is supported by the PRIN 2009 project “Matematica e meccanica dei sistemi biologici e dei tessuti molli”.


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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aisling Ní Annaidh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Karine Bruyère
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Michel Destrade
    • 1
    • 7
  • Michael D. Gilchrist
    • 1
  • Corrado Maurini
    • 2
    • 3
  • Melanie Otténio
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Giuseppe Saccomandi
    • 8
  1. 1.School of Mechanical and Materials EngineeringUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.UPMC, Univ Paris 6, UMR 7190, Institut Jean Le Rond d’AlembertParisFrance
  3. 3.CNRS, UMR 7190, Institut Jean Le Rond d’AlembertParisFrance
  4. 4.Université de LyonLyonFrance
  5. 5.IFSTTAR, LBMC, UMR_T9406BronFrance
  6. 6.Université Lyon 1VilleurbanneFrance
  7. 7.School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied MathematicsNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  8. 8.Dipartimento di Ingegneria IndustrialeUniversità degli Studi di PerugiaPerugiaItaly

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